Ursuline tops East Liverpool

Matt Morrison / Lisbon Morning Journal Urusline’s Jaylen Gunther drives the lane against East Liverpool on Monday.

EAST LIVERPOOL — The East Liverpool boys basketball team has faced plenty of strong opponents throughout the season to prepare for tournament play.

“We don’t want that deer in the headlights look like we have had in the districts the past few years,” East Liverpool coach Nate Conley said. “These games will make us better if we learn from them.”

The Potters definitely had a learning lesson Monday, as they got out to a late start against an Ursuline team that is ranked seventh in Division II and ultimately fell 72-53.

“I didn’t think we competed in the first half. I thought that (Ursuline) got everything they wanted,” Conley said. “You are not going to advance very far in the playoffs if you don’t compete on every possession.”

East Liverpool falls to 16-5 on the regular season, while Ursuline improves to 17-3.

Ursuline kept a quick pace that gave it a strong advantage over the Potters.

“We wanted to run and then periodically pound the ball in to Jayden (Payne) and let him go to work,” Ursuline coach Keith Gunther said. “Our focus is to run three possessions and then pound the ball into Payne. I thought we did a good job at that, and I thought we played well defensively in the first half.”

While Payne dominated the inside paint, Jaylen Gunther attacked the inside with drives while also dishing it out to open teammates that hit outside shots. Payne also hit a couple of threes, including one with 32.2 seconds left in the third quarter that gave the Irish a 58-39 lead.

“My teammates, when they move it really opens the whole floor for me,” Jaylen Gunther said. “Whenever I attack and they collapse on me I just kick it out to them and they hit open shots.”

Gunther and Noah Bell finished with 14 points, while Payne led the Irish with 18 points.

East Liverpool played a better second half that included a 9-2 run late in the fourth quarter, but time ultimately ran out on the Potters.

“I thought we showed a little bit more fight in the second,” Conley said. “We got a little bit more physical, and we realized that every possession in games like this matter.”

East Liverpool was led by Preston Kerr with 15 points, while Blake Adkins had 12 points.

The Potters knew that it would have their hands full against the Irish, but it will have to show more competition if it wants to make a run in the state tournament.

“(Ursuline) is a legit basketball [team]. There is probably no team in our district that is as good as them,” Conley said. “I just want to compete better. I want to fight for every possession and the 50-50 balls. I thought we did that in the second half, but we didn’t start like that, and it is something that we have to address.”

Urusline will host Howland on Thursday, while East Liverpool will host Canfield on Thursday.



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